So, where were we?
Oh, yes, Bury St. Edmunds, but there was a slight problem.
The hotel (which shall remain nameless) didn’t have any bookings in our name and I had to fight our corner as a means to get around the problem as the hotel was denying that they’d had a booking from booking.com.
It’s a good job then that I had ample evidence in my hand to say that I had a booking as I’d not only got the original emails from booking.com on my phone, but had hard copies too to back up our case.
After a while, a room was found and the hotel agreed to honour the prices stated on the paperwork.
Our room was in the annex are – sizeable enough with everything we needed for our stay, apart from china cups to drink tea or coffee from – only disposable ones were available, but these lasted just two brews, so necessity was the mother of invention when it came to coffee time…
As it was getting late, we opted to eat in the hotel rather than walk into town on a rainy night in search of eats.
We ended up ordering food and drink, but then realised we were placed between two sets of loud diners who were intent on ensuring that every one in the room knew what there thoughts were – especially about wearing masks indoors when they weren’t sitting at their table eating or drinking.
Breakfast was much better the following morning as we followed the rules regarding getting our breakfast choices.
Once fed, it was time to walk into the centre of Bury St. Edmunds to do some exploring. It was drizzling and overcast as we wandered in, but we managed to get a couple of free coffees from Greggs as I had two full coffee cards in my wallet from the time before lockdown one, so it seemed like a good idea to use them and warm up.
As it was so cool, keeping ourselves drier by indulging in some retail therapy seemed like a good idea and whilst Caroline tried a couple of dresses on in one shop, the only purchases came from WH Smiths and Body Shop.
With lunch at Bill’s taking care of food and drink out for the day, more fodder came along from the food section at Marks & Spencer. As we’d spent more than anticipated at Bill’s, we were quite happy to hit M&S as they were doing the daily round of food markdowns, so our respective evening meals were easily sorted, as was a supply of beer and cider to wash it down with.
With the TV set at the hotel playing up, I ploughed through the magazines I’d bought earlier whilst Caroline fired up her Kindle to do some reading
Fortunately Monday morning was looking good, so we wandered back into the centre and whilst Caroline hit the museums and Cathedral, I took the opportunity to get a few shots on the camera before going for a coffee.
What we had noticed as we’d been away was the different approaches used to stick to track and trace requirements – some were being rather pedantic about scanning QR codes whilst others were more laid-back and simply took our names and telephone numbers as a means of recording our presence in their establishments.
The visit to B-S-E was an odd mix between the two methodologies with some places getting narked at the fact we’d never ever done any QR code scanning for anything whilst others just asked for our details or handed us a clipboard to do the deed ourselves.
After lunch at the Cathedral cafe, Caroline went off for another wander whilst I took a seat to do some reading and take some more photos.
After meeting back up again, we took a wander down to the area around Greene King Brewery.
It wasn’t open to visitors, but a nearby pub was, so liquid refreshment was ordered and quaffed – slowly but surely.
As it was getting on by now, it was time to hit M&S again for food bargains and non-alcoholic drinks before heading back to the hotel to sort out the washing we’d done the night before and then pack the bags once more in readiness for our move towards our next destination – The Red Lion Hotel in Duxford – and our visit to IWM Duxford Air Museum.
Colourful illustrated guidebooks that hit the spot to give the reader an excellent overview of towns, cities and the local attractions along with brief details of where to eat and where to stay.
Favourites are the guidebooks relating to Portugal and Spain.
Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain – Quentin Letts
Journalist Quentin Letts aims carefully and highlights fifty targets. Some may surprise you whilst others may well be regarded as very suitable for inclusion in such a work!
Greece On My Wheels – Edward Enfield
Yes, that’s Harry Enfield’s dad.
Edward Enfield has written several books on his cycling exploits around Europe, but this was the first that I’d read by him and it’s on the list of books to read once more.
Hamish’s Mountain Walk – Hamish Brown
A classic book on hillwalking and backpacking around Scotland. One of those books that I read years ago and took lessons from, especially when it came to choosing and using lightweight camping and walking equipment.
An excellent read too!
Use paper versions when planning a trip, usually in conjunction with the equivalent Rough Guide (the latter’s city guides beat the LP versions hands down IMHO!).
There have been times when I’ve cursed their layouts (maps pages away from area info in two editions of the Portugal guide for example) and there have been one or three places that we won’t be returning to – allegedly!
My Dining Hell – Jay Rayner
The Observer’s restaurant critic’s collection of past reviews is a joy to read – unless you own one of the places visited!
I don’t always agree with what’s written, but the appropriate Rough Guide is bought in paper format and used in conjunction with the same area’s Lonely Planet when planning a trip.
I regularly use paper area, city and country guides plus eBook only city or island guides.
The Descent Of Man – Grayson Perry
This is the newest book on the list and one of the few books in my collection that I have in both hardback and Kindle editions.
Not my usual type of reading by any means, but a book that has a lot to say about modern life and is engaging enough to read in one sitting.
The Moon’s A Ballon – David Niven
I first read this back in the late 1970s and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again a couple of years ago. A classic autobiography with loads of anecdotes about Niven himself and his life in Hollywood.
Another book from this list that’s going to get another reading soon.
These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
You may not recognise the title, but you may well have heard of the film that was largely based on this novel – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel..
A few changes were made along the way from the printed page to digital screens, but it still hits the spot…
On the beach…
Where were we?
Ah yes, heading into Alnwick for some fodder for an evening meal.
I’ve made quite a few visits to the town over the years. Some for work, but most have been for pleasure. My best friend from University lived a few miles away and even had her wedding reception at Alnwick Castle, but there were quite a few nights out on pub crawls or single bar nights, usually at Oscars.
Which appeared to have closed down when I drove past it a couple of times. Parking in the town centre was a problem, but a bit of local knowledge came in handy as I headed out of town in the direction of Barter Books and turned right into Lidl’s car park.
With shopping for a couple of meals and breakfasts done, it was time to head back to Calico Barn for coffee, food and a snooze before catching up with email and then switching the iPad to Kindle mode for the rest of the night.
Wednesday wasn’t quite a repeat of Tuesday’s meanderings. Yes, I did some more work and then tried to get into Amble again afterwards, but that mission failed thanks to parking issues once more, so I just ended up mooching towards Alnmouth again and then headed to Newbiggin-by-the Sea.
After getting back to Cresswell, I drove past the hostel and turned onto a side track that led to the car park at Druridge Bay. It was busy and there had been a load of builder’s waste dumped near the footpath to the beach.
Although I’ve visited Northumberland many times, this was the first time I’d been to Druridge Bay. It may have been half term, but the beach itself was pretty empty.
The above photo doesn’t do it justice, because it is a great beach and I’d only wished that the lighting conditions had been better from a photographer’s point of view.
One thing was blindingly obvious. I’m pleased that environmentalists stood up to the powers that be over thirty years ago and fought a successful campaign against plans to build a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay.
Little did I know that there was a public enquiry taking place down the road which was discussing plans for opencast coal mining near Cresswell. BBC’s Look North covered it in their 6.30pm news bulletin that night and whilst the public enquiry is over, the verdict isn’t due to be released just yet…
After a while on the beach, it was back to Calico Barn to freshen up, have a meal and relax for a while. I was due to be the only one staying in the hostel for a couple of nights, so I could spread out, take the best seat in front of the TV and have a beer or two.
There was a knock on the door though as two Dutch cyclists who were heading onto the adjacent campsite were wanting somewhere to buy food or get a meal. Caroline and Luke rode past and whilst I shouted to them in the hope of catching their attention, the wind took my words elsewhere and they didn’t hear me hollering!
I suggested that they try Cresswell village to see what was available in the pub or indeed at the caravan site shop, so off they went. When Caroline and I spoke later on, it transpired that she had heard something, but had dismissed it as she rode back after another long bike ride.
Thursday saw a bit more work going on until about lunchtime so lunch was taken at The Drift cafe just along the road from Calico Barn.
Which was rather busy. A bacon and haggis roll was ordered along with a Coke Zero and both went down well, especially that bacon and haggis combo… The two Dutch cyclists were also in there and the steady stream of customers suggested that The Drift is a rather popular feeding station.
After a drive around, I ended up in a couple of places I remembered the names of from news bulletins during my days of living in both mining communities and towns or cities in the North East of England.
Ellington and Lynemouth had been proud mining communities, but those days were over. When I asked locally what had happened to those people who had worked at the collieries, I didn’t get that much information apart from the mention of a mental health facility opening up in the area.
On returning to Calico Barn, it was time for an early meal and a plan for another relaxing evening. Then a couple of large cars pulled up containing two families who had booking in at the last minute. Peace and quiet did go out of the window, so I retreated to my room and promptly fell asleep.
When I woke up, all was quieter than New Year’s Day. After a snack, a beer and a phone conversation with Caroline, I turned in for the night, only to be woken up by those two families returning at 11.30pm. I was not amused…
Friday was departure day, so my stuff was packed up and left until I headed up to the caravan park to pick up Caroline, her bike and her couple of bags. Once done, it was time to get my bags and then let Caroline look around Calico Barn for a potential weekend base for her cycling club.
Calico Barn Independent Hostel, near Cresswell, Northumberland
After that, it was time to go home. On relatively quiet roads and motorways for once!
Next week – North Norfolk in June…
Our weekend in Aylesbury wasn’t planned – the phone rang at 8am and we were on the road just after 10.30am.
We’d got up, had breakfast, found a hotel for three nights on booking.com, got the route cards off the AA’s Classic Route Planner, packed, filled the petrol tank and hit the road.
Yes, it was a last minute thing, but when emergencies come along, you just have to do it, no matter what was already planned.
We’d booked into a Holiday Inn, so there were some things we didn’t take (big bottles of shower gel, towels, coffee press, ground coffee etc), but clothes were packed along with wash kits, footwear and Kindles/iPads with the Kindle app and that was about it.
Although it was a Friday morning, the motorways weren’t busy and neither were those roads leading to the hotel. A stop at a motorway services saw lunch bought and demolished thanks to M&S and we were on our way again.
The Holiday Inn at Aylesbury is an out of towner, but easily found. Check in wasn’t problematical and we found our room in a quiet part of the hotel.
Caroline did freshen up before organising a taxi to where she was off too. I crashed out for a while, did some reading and then thought that it could be a good idea to find some food.
Although we had a B&B deal at Holiday Inn, the dining prices put me off, so I got in the car and headed into the town centre. I found Tesco, but their cafe had closed, so a pack of sparkling water was bought and I moved on.
Yes, I did get fed up with driving around, but after drawing a blank, I started looking for the nearest takeaway. One was spotted, but there was no parking place outside, so I ended up driving on and found an inn further up the road.
The name sounded familiar and it didn’t take long to realised why. It was one of the places that I’d spotted and discounted on booking,com as it was too far out of Aylesbury.
The decor was also rather familiar, but the reason for that was because it was part of the same small chain as the pub Caroline and I frequent which does good food and is a short walk away from wisepacking towers…
No drinks for me as I was driving, but water went well with the pretty good pizza that made its way to the table at The Five Bells in Weston Turville. I decided against a dessert, but made a mental note to head back there on Saturday night.
With Caroline and I getting back to the hotel within a few minutes of each other, we had a catch up session and decided to have an early night, a wise move considering the day we’d had…
I make no apology for making this more of a picture based post regarding our visit to the Alhambra Palace.
So much has been written about Granada’s World Heritage Site by those who know more than I do (Rough Guide Andalucia devotes @ six pages including maps and photos to the site, as does Lonely Planet Andalucia).
Our visit to Alhambra was booked back in January 2017, and yes, that was a wise move as the Sold Out signs were already posted when we collected our pre-booked tickets around 9.15am.
As our allocated time to enter Palacios Nazaries wasn’t for another couple of hours, we had time to wander over towards it, taking in the gardens, and second breakfasts too.
Whilst we’d had a spot of breakfast back at White Nest Hostel, there wasn’t much of it about thanks to the school or college party that had almost cleaned out the breakfast buffet selection.
A couple of bread rolls with marmalade and a cup of coffee weren’t going to set us up for the day, so coffee and a vending machine snack topped up the energy levels enough to last us until lunchtime.
Although I’d visited Alhambra back in 1999, there were only a few parts that I remembered seeing on that visit. With so much to see and take in, we took things nice and slow in the run up to joining the queue in readiness for our slot to get into Palacios Nazaries.
After queuing for a while and a bag check, we joined those starting to wend their way around the complex. We did hang back a bit because we’d noticed the amount of people who were wanting to photograph everything and then take selfies of themselves against the same views or interiors.
Taking things slowly had its advantages. We saw more than those doing Roadrunner impressions and had time to take things in. There were a couple of times when we couldn’t get into certain rooms, but we just held back a bit and got in when things were quieter.
We eventually exited the buildings and started to wander around the multi-level gardens adjacent to Palacios Nazaries for a while before hunger hit once more and lunch was declared.
Whilst we gave the vending machine coffee a miss this time, another machine served up not one, but two packs of sandwiches. Coffee came from the hut near the entrance to the Alcazaba fortress this time – good coffee, and rather strong too…
Once the coffee was downed, we entered the one way system in the Alcazaba, got the cameras out and then explored the fortress. I got told off for sitting on a wall rather than a bench, but once I’d found a proper seat, I could see that the wall was a bit older than the concrete I’d been sitting on at the top of it was older than I’d realised.
As Caroline and I made our way over to the Generalife and Summer Palace, my left leg started playing up thanks to some post-stroke muscle trouble, so I sat down to relax and do some reading.
Caroline headed off towards the Generalife and Summer Palace and I got more and more engrossed in the book I was reading on my iPad’s Kindle app. My phone was off as usual, but on checking my watch, I realised that I hadn’t seen Caroline for quite a while.
So the phone was booted up and I found that there’d been a missed call, a voicemail message and several texts in the last quarter of an hour…
If it’s Thursday, then it’s time to get thee to a flamenco club.
Now we’d seen what the admission charges were for some of the flamenco shows, but we’d heard about a club in one of the back streets when reading a Kindle book on Seville (Seville for Free 2016 by Lynne Knightly) before we headed off.
The same club – La Carboneria – was also recommended to us by the owner of the pension we were staying in as being one of the best places to go – and he was right.
My earlier confusion in trying to find the club was understandable as we’d found out after seeing that notice near the original entrance on Calle Levies which pointed in the direction of the new entrance a few hundred metres away on Cespedes.
As we’d taken our time over the tapas, we arrived at La Carboneria around 9.30pm and wandered in.
The club was already busy, and there weren’t any seats to be had. So beer beckoned and a couple of camas of Alhambra ordered in my best Spanish (I was getting the hang of it, honest!).
At €2 per glass, it wasn’t going to break the bank, but one guy standing next to me came rather unstuck when he came to pay as he presented a card to pay for his drinks. The problem he faced? No cards, so he was given directions to the nearest ATM…
There was a sense of deja vu as I looked around La Carboneria as it brought back memories of heading out to clubs to see bands in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Unlike Riverside in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, La Carboneria wasn’t a standing venue as there were long tables and benches on the lower and upper levels of the club.
The audience was a good mix though – old, young and of different ethnic backgrounds too (very reminiscent of those attending gigs at the Harambe Africa festival). You could spot the tour parties though – students with one eye on their friends and the other on the screens of their respective mobile phones.
The music started around 10pm though. Guitars first and then the essential combination of guitars and dancer.
Whilst there were two musicians, there was only one dancer, but was there passion in the dancing? Oh yes…
From where we were standing, we could only see the hand movements and the facial expressions, but there was so much intensity in those movements and expressions that seeing the feet moving wasn’t necessary.
As the intensity rose, the dancer’s hair started to move too and it wasn’t long before hair was falling into the dancer’s face.
Fortunately that happened on the last song/dance of that particular set. That passion contented as the night wore on in the other two sets we witnessed from the same players and dancer.
As the night wore on though, we became conscious that we’d been up for a long time and that as good as the night was, we really did need some sleep, especially as we had a long, good Friday planned.
It was to be our last full day in Seville and there was a lot to do, especially as we had planned on an early start to get in the queue to take a look around Seville’s Alcazar.
More on Monday!
The road goes forever on…
Amazon came up with an offer that I couldn’t refuse last weekend.
The Kindle version of On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
It’s one of those books I’ve seen on other people’s bookshelves or heard references to on Marillion’s Clutching At Straws album, but also a tome that I’ve never read – yet…
Although I did a thirteen page analysis of a music video for the song On The Road by Lee Roy Parnell whilst at university in the 1990’s and have seen the film of the book a few years ago (on opening night as a time filler – both Caroline and I agreed that it was a few hours of our lives we were never going to get back!), I’ve never fancied reading the book.
Time will tell as to how long it will be before I read it or what I’ll think about it, but as it was just 99p, it was worth a punt!
More from Spain…
Five days in Northumberland
Five days in North Norfolk
More thoughts on packing
Bits of news
Some silly stuff
Books, films and television programmes
And links such as the one below…
We’ve used and mentioned Osprey Farpoint packs a few times on wisepacking, so we’re pleased to see that there’s a new variation on the theme – the Osprey Fairview range.
They’re ladies packs and more info can be found here…
We knew there would be rain in Spain one day… Just not this much!
The planning for our trip to Andalucia started a while ago.
The initial thinking was to head over there in October 2016, but thoughts changed and we ended up visiting Herefordshire and Somerset.
The thinking started again back in November 2016 and a simple plan was drawn up – fly in and out of Malaga from either Leeds/Bradford or Manchester airports and take a look at the Picasso and other art connections in Malaga before heading to Seville, Cordoba and Granada and then head back to Malaga for the flight home.
This was expanded upon by getting hold of both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide paper guidebooks to Andalucia. Although I’d already taken a read through the LP and RG books on Spain, the area specific guides provided more insights to the cities we were intent on visiting and useful snippets regarding travelling times between cities by bus or train, eating out, flamenco and a few tips on speaking Spanish.
Flights and our hotel in Malaga were booked via Expedia whilst digs in Seville, Cordoba and Granada were booked via booking.com.
All of this happened back in November 2016, as did upgrades to the basic flights as we chose to pre-book seats on the plane in both directions and opt for priority boarding.
Yes, this put the price of the flights up, but we reckoned it was worth it as a means of getting settled in to our seats and as a means of ensuring that our hand luggage wasn’t stashed in the hold instead…
The decision to use buses rather than trains in Spain came down to two factors – cost and journey times (which in one or two cases quoted in the guidebooks were shorter on the bus rather than the train…).
Booking the buses was left until January and it has to be said that booking buses between Malaga and Seville, Seville and Cordoba along with Cordoba to Granada was pretty easy via the http://www.alsa.es website.
A problem did arise when it came to book the journey between Granada and Malaga. My UK bank card had been used for the first three transactions, but wasn’t being accepted for the one that would take us back to Malaga in readiness for the flight home.
Technology being what it is, a web chat was established with Alsa and it transpired that I should have used a Spanish bank card or PayPal for all of my ticket buying transactions!
As the first three sales had gone through without any difficulties and I had both printed off the online tickets and the ones sent to my email address, I decided to press on for the fourth transaction and book it via PayPal.
The problem being that I hadn’t used PayPal for years and couldn’t remember what my password was. That took a bit of time to resolve, but hey presto! That last set of tickets was bought, paid for and printed off…
With all of the flight, accommodation and almost all of the internal travel sorted out, there was a couple of things left to do – book tickets for our visit to The Alhambra in Granada and sort out transport to Manchester Airport.
Tickets were easily booked and paid for via The Alhambra’s website and that was almost it.
Next up was the booking of rail tickets and we almost came unstuck.
We were travelling on a weekend when there was planned maintenance on the railway line. Although the website showed this, it didn’t tell us the full nature of the replacement bus service operating on our day of travel.
After three attempts at finding out, it was time to jump in the car, head to a mainline station and ask questions. Once answered and the printouts handed over, the tickets were bought and paid for and that was it for two months.
When March came around, all we had to do was get some € notes, check the mid-range weather forecast and go…
There was however one small problem left – neither of us speak Spanish!
Which guide is the right guide for you?
There’s a whole lot of reading going on, largely because the weather around wisepacking towers is not that condusive to heading out, no matter what clothing/footwear is being used at the time…
There’s four paper guidebooks and two language helpers on the desk in readiness for our next trip and a new one on the Kindle section of my iPad too (this one’s a brand new revision of an existing title and I haven’t as yet found anyone selling the new paper version…).
The four on the desk are from Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and DK Eyewitness whilst the new Kindle on the iPad is a Pocket Rough Guide.
Why four books and why are they from different publishers?
That’s all to do with getting a more rounded picture of the places we’re going to as each has its own take on the cities and what there is to see and do. As you can see from the above photo, there’s a lot to be said for hanging onto old editions of guidebooks as these can provide further information as certain stuff may be mentioned in one edition of said book, but not another, even though the sight or establishment is still operating….
These guides from the big names are being complemented by a set of city guides in Kindle format from the Atsons and Unanchored series of eBooks or those produced independently by the authors themselves..
Some have been paid for whilst others have been free downloads, but all are being read to get more information and yes, there have been some good tips that are being noted and stored for use on the ground when we hit the cities we’re going to as a means of ensuring that our euros go that little bit further by not resorting to big name eateries for drinks or snacks.
At the moment, all of the main guidebooks are providing good information in a very readable format, something that is a great improvement on our findings when researching the various trips to Portugal.
Rough Guides were our favourites on these trips in either full country or Snapshot/Pocket Rough Guide formats. These paper tomes were used in conjunction with info gleaned from Julie Dawn Fox’s books on Portugal and Porto along with tips from Julie’s website – https://juliedawnfox.com
You may wonder why I favour paper books over techno books…
1) Because paper books are easier to read on the hoof.
2) The indexing is usually much better in paper books.
3) They don’t require charging up at regular intervals.
4) They’re more discrete to look at when out and about.
5) Sections could be copied or cannibalised from the main book, especially if you’re going to one town, city or area for a few days or a couple of weeks.
No matter what the information in the books, the format or who the publisher is, there’s one aspect that’s never left out or forgotten about – using our eyes and ears to discover places, events or eateries.
We’ve spotted posters on noticeboards about museums, stumbled across eating places, taken river trips or found interesting shops by just following instincts and heading off in what turned out to be the right direction…
Although I’ve just bought that new Pocket Rough Guide for the iPad, it’s only going to be used as a guide on a forthcoming trip.
Although the booking has been done, what we do when we get there is largely going to be made up as we go along. There’s a couple of daft ideas floating around, but whether they come to fruition is another matter…
Not in a guidebook, but the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum was found after seeing a poster on the wall at a campsite washing up area…